Baking is always an adventure. Ingredients, tools, the weather/climate, and in my case experience level can certainly make things interesting. But that's half the fun right? It's almost spring, so I wanted to make something that bridged the gap between now and the actual start in just a few weeks. So I thought "petit fours, how perfect!" And they really kind of are. Sweet little bites of decadent cake deliciousness, with endless possibilities when it comes to flavor combinations, how could you go wrong?
Well, it could, in many ways, but we'll get to that. I decided on carrot cake petit fours because I really love my Mom's carrot cake recipe, its a little different, but completely delicious! I figured this being my first foray into petit four world, I'd stick with something I knew. Plus, I saw these beautiful rainbow carrots at the store I and I couldn't help myself!
The cake baking part was easy, and so was the frosting, just a simple sheet cake and some cream cheese frosting. Although I added flour to the recipe to make the cake a little more dense. Traditional petits fours consist of several very thin layers of cake and filling, this not only looks pretty when you cut into them, but also provides structure to support the final outer coating of icing. I decided to keep my first attempt simple, so I only did two layers. Keeping the layers thin is important, because too much height will make them topple when you pour the icing over.
While the cake was cooling I had some fun with decorations. I tried really hard here to make my beloved plant based food coloring work, but when mixed with the off white palette of marzipan, it just ended up looking a bit like dirty play dough. So I opted for the traditional route, dying my fingers all sorts of fun colors in the process, but it worked. Marzipan really is lots of fun and full of possibilities. And if you mess up, its not a problem, you can just eat your mistake and start over (yay!). Not to mention this keeps the kids busy while the cake gets ready to be iced.
Another use for the marzipan is structure. After cutting the cake into 1 inch by 1 inch squares I topped each with a thinly rolled out piece of marzipan, and then put a toothpick through for stability (the hole is easily covered by the carrot decoration later.
Last but not least is the icing part. This is where things really turned into an adventure, and where I figured out what size petit four worked best. Physics is a beautiful thing, and baking is a great way to see it in action. Proper cake structure and density are crucial, but so is the density of the outside force, in this case the icing. Too thick and it topples/drowns the little cake, too thin and it drips right off. This was definitely the trickiest and very stickiest part of the adventure, but after some trial and error, I got a few little cakes that actually resembled real petit fours. I was ecstatic!
To be honest this project was a bit of a challenge for me, but one that was fun, educational and so worth the results!
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups walnut oil
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1, 8 oz package of cream cheese
- Honey to taste
Recipe: Icing (see good old Martha Stewart on this one)
Decorations: Marzipan and food coloring
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the honey, eggs, carrots and oil in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together. With a spatula fold the the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Pour the batter into a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the layer of and stacking.
For the frosting: Let the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature. Then mix together until creamy. Add in the honey until desired sweetness is achieved.
Like I said earlier, after some (fun and messy) trial and error I found that with this cake, and the limited amount of layers I was doing, a 1 inch cube was the way to go. So if your cake is too thick, cut it in half length wise. This can be a bit tricky, but just keep the bread knife level and let it do the work for you, don't force it. Once you have 2, 1/2 inch layers of cake frost one layer with the cream cheese frosting and place the other layer on top. Place in the fridge for 20 min to set. While the cake is in the fridge make the icing to pour over the little cakes.Once the icing has cooled a bit, take the cake out of the fridge and start cutting it into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes. Next roll out a ball of marzipan to about an 1/8 inch thickness and use a toothpick to cut into 1 inch by 1 inch squares. Place a piece of marzipan on top of each petit four and insert a toothpick through the center to hold it in place.
Next up is the icing. You can try and pour it over like the recipe says, but I found this a little difficult. So I used a spoon instead. I found this gave me more control in where the icing was actually going. Place the petit fours in the fridge to set. Depending on how thick the icing is you may want to do another coating.
Lastly... decorate and enjoy!
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